The Southern Umfrevilles

When I started researching the Umfreville family in 1991 it was sparked by meeting one of their descendants in Essex. She had a very vague idea that her family name was unusual and that at some time in the past they had been of some note. Consequently I researched what I could and gave her a copy of the work. I lost touch through changing jobs until in 1997 another distant descendant managed to contact me through the internet. Rhonda Umfreville in New Zealand told me that her grandfather, Charles D'Olier Umfreville, had also researched his family all the way back to Robert with the beard! A family tree was sent to me and it finally filled in the missing generations between the last of the Redesdale Umfrevilles and the modern descendants as well as their link to the defunct Newcastle branch.

As I had suspected Thomas, the third surviving son of Gilbert the first earl of Angus, had moved south as a staller or Steward to Edward II and Edward III and started a new line there. Bearing in mind that the Newcastle Umfrevilles are also descended from this Thomas this would explain how they managed to posess a sword that had once belonged to Thomas' father (and possibly to Richard the Vice Admiral as well). This would also explain the Newcastle Umfrevilles possession of a 'Pedigree' which clearly would have also been in the possession of the Essex family. Interestingly the family tree drawn by Charles D'Olier is called by him (or quoted) as 'Pedigree abstract of the Chief line of Umfreville, 1076-1966'. It is clear that he has copied his tree from an earlier document. This section is almost entirely taken from this tree.

The first generations

Thomas Umfreville produced at least one son, Gilbert who also had male issue. This son, William, had two sons (according to Charles Umfreville) named George and Robert. George was apparently killed in 1419, presumably in France where his kinsman Gilbert, Earl of Kyme, was to perish two years later. George is a very peculiar name for the 15th century and it would have been far from common then and only gained real popularity in the 18th century. However, surely if this person never existed then why call him George? Odonell, Thomas, William, Gilbert and Richard would all have sufficed as a brother of a Robert!

The Claim

Robert's grandson, Andrew, is whom the claim of descent hinges upon. A letter dated c1450 held by the College of Arms states that Andrew Umfreville is the grandson of Sir Robert Umfreville of Harbottle Castle. In 1421 Gilbert Earl of Kyme was dead in Anjou and his lands passed on to his Uncle Robert, the Vice Admiral. Robert died in 1436. If  'George' died in 1419 then his brother 'Robert' would have been contemporary with Robert the Vice-Admiral. The Vice-Admiral certainly held Redesdale, Otterburn and Elsdon as he was the best placed surviving male of the whole line. There are clearly some possibilities here.

Firstly, the letter claiming descent from Robert of Harbottle is spurious simply because there were two Robert Umfrevilles contemporary with each other. As Lord of  Redesdale the Vice Admiral would have held Harbottle castle UNLESS his kinsman Robert held it for him.

Secondly the southern Robert would have been in the South of England (or France) making it difficult but not impossible to hold Harbottle.

Thirdly if Andrew Umfreville was claiming descent from Robert the Vice Admiral around 1450 the surely he would have been referred to as Robert Umfreville The Vice Admiral of England rather than Sir Robert of Harbottle? particularly if we realise that the Vice Admiral was a very famous man and hero of Agincourt and had only died 14 years earlier.

Fourthly Charles Umfrevilles 'Pedigree' claims that Robert (of Harbottle castle) married an Isabella widow of William Heron. Robert the Vice Admiral also married an Isabella. Either the facts have become merged and blurred over the centuries or the claim is true. There is also the possibility that the vice Admiral had two illegitimate sons who passed on (or adopted) his name hence Andrew Umfreville claiming his grandfather was Lord of Harbottle castle and the Redesdale title and lands should have passed on to him after 1436.

Looking at the family tree of the Newcastle Umfrevilles and that of Charles D'Olier Umfreville there are clearly some points that just do not agree but without knowing the dates of both pedigrees it is impossible to tell which is the most accurate. One thing does appear clear though. The Umfrevilles have been trying to claim Redesdale since 1450 up until the present day.